2012-13 Presidential Graduate Fellows announced

University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken has announced the seven recipients of 2012-13 Presidential Graduate Fellowships. These prestigious fellowships honor a select group of NU graduate students each year on the basis of high scholastic performance and personal accomplishment. Fellows receive a stipend provided through the University of Nebraska Foundation that allows them to pursue their studies full-time.

This year, fellowships are presented to three students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, two at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and two at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The honored students are pursuing advanced degrees in mathematics, business, history, English, psychology, pharmaceutical sciences and genetics, cell biology and anatomy.

“Presidential Graduate Fellows are among the University of Nebraska’s most outstanding students,” Milliken said. “They are future scholars, scientists, teachers and business leaders who already have accomplished a great deal both in and outside of the classroom. I’m confident that they will accomplish much more as they continue their studies and begin their careers. The University is fortunate to have a level of private support that allows us to recognize these students and provide them an opportunity to devote full time to their academic pursuits.”

This year’s Presidential Graduate Fellows are:

Kathryn Haymaker, of Hellertown, Penn., a Ph.D. student in mathematics at UNL. Haymaker studies coding theory, which originated with the need to send information reliably and efficiently over a communication or storage channel. Her dissertation research includes the use of mathematical structures to design codes for flash memories and write-once memories. Haymaker is also interested in graph-based codes and their applications. In fall 2011, she spent two months at a thematic program on coding theory at a technical institute in Lausanne, Switzerland. She also has served on the UNL math department’s organizing committee for the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics. This winter, she received the G.C. Young and W.H. Young Award for scholarship in the UNL math department. She graduated with honors in mathematics from Bryn Mawr College in 2007.

Jeff Johnson, of Lincoln, a Ph.D. candidate in business at UNL. After receiving his B.S. in business administration with an emphasis in finance in 2001 and M.B.A. in 2002, both from UNL, Johnson spent six years working in sales, marketing and management positions at Union Pacific. He joined UNL’s marketing Ph.D. program in 2009 and has been pursuing his research interests in personal selling, sales management and marketing strategy. Johnson’s dissertation examines the factors leading to the implementation of new marketing strategies by the salesperson. Johnson coauthored a forthcoming article in the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, has presented his research multiple times at national conferences, and has several articles under review at top marketing journals. He has also received awards for his teachings as a doctoral student.

Nathan Probasco, of Scribner, a Ph.D. candidate in history at UNL. Probasco’s interests center on the history of colonization and technology in the early modern Atlantic world. He is currently writing his dissertation, which examines the cartography, nautical science and promotional literature of English explorer Humphrey Gilbert’s 1583 voyage to North America. A former Othmer fellow, Probasco was awarded an NCAA postgraduate scholarship while completing his master’s degree at Nebraska, and he recently received fellowships to the Huntington and John Carter Brown Libraries. His research has appeared in peer-reviewed history and literature journals, and he has presented his work at a number of national and international conferences. In addition to holding various research and teaching assistantships, he also has volunteered for National History Day and History Harvest.

Scott Aichinger, of Hastings, Minn., a master’s candidate in English at UNO. Aichinger’s master’s work focuses on creative nonfiction writing with a graduate minor in Native American Studies. His other scholarly interests include embodied, feminist and queer composition pedagogies. He was awarded the Wardle, Spire & Lane Outstanding Graduate Student Fellowship by the UNO Department of English for the 2011-12 academic year. He also served as a teaching assistant, teaching English Composition I for the First-Year Writing Program and working in the Writing Center. He carries a 3.98 grade point average and earned his bachelor’s degree at UNL. He wrote this bio in the north woods of Minnesota, where he is working on his creative thesis, a collection of essays about his relationships with the world around him.

Amy Walzer, of Pulaski, Penn., a Ph.D. candidate in industrial/organizational psychology at UNO. Walzer received her Bachelor of Arts from Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania and her Master of Arts in social psychology at the University of Toledo in Ohio. She has published four articles in peer-reviewed psychology journals related to her interest in stereotyping and prejudice. She has also presented at several regional and national psychology conferences. Walzer has gained academic experience through teaching assistantships and as an instructor for several psychology courses. She also has acquired applied experience in the field of industrial/organizational psychology through internships with the Lincoln fire and police departments and with Sprint Nextel Corp.

Vishakha Vilas Ambardekar, of Mumbai, India, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UNMC. Ambardekar completed her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the Institute of Chemical Technology at the University of Mumbai. Her Ph.D. dissertation focuses on developing nanocarriers for small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated treatment of breast cancer. The major challenge to the use of siRNAs as therapeutics is their delivery to the target site; her project involves development of polymer-based nanocarriers for delivering therapeutic siRNAs to primary breast tumors and metastases. Ambardekar received a UNMC graduate fellowship from 2010 to 2012 and the Research Innovation Award from UNeMed Corp. in 2011, in addition to multiple awards during her undergraduate career in India, including the Tata Scholarship for Academic Excellence in the pharmacy program.

Christine Gilling-Cutucache, of Jackson, Wis., a Ph.D. candidate in genetics, cell biology and anatomy at UNMC. Gilling-Cutucache has been investigating the influence of the tumor microenvironment on the progression and aggressiveness of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, using a combined approach of cell biology, translational biology, immunology and model organisms to determine the biological changes during progression. She received the American Association of Anatomists Travel Award for the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego this year, among other awards, and has published 15 peer-reviewed abstracts, three full-length manuscripts and presented her research 29 times during her research years at NU. Gilling-Cutucache is a volunteer instructor for the American Red Cross, provides vaccine education for victims of domestic violence, and is the founding member and student mentor for the UNMC Health Sciences High School Alliance program.

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